The gospels of Matthew (1:18-25) and Luke (1:26-38) make no apology for mentioning that Jesus was born of a virgin (to be sure John emphasizes it as well in John 3:16,”only begotten son” and Mark goes out of his way stylistically to leave it open). Indeed Luke, whose primary source for his birth narrative was most likely Mary herself (Luke 2:19), records Mary asking the angel Gabriel about how this birth announcement will come to pass, since she is a virgin (Luke 1:34).
Yet many who read these accounts, struggle to grasp how this could be. Modern science has enlightened our thinking and we know that virgins don’t get pregnant… ahem, well actually modern science has proven it is possible for a virgin TO get pregnant. In fact Mary’s claim to a virgin birth would be more readily believed today than in her own time. Modern sex ed warns young girls, that while very rare, it is possible to get pregnant without loosing your virginity, all it takes is a little highly motivated sperm in the right place at the right time (indeed whole industries have been established around procreation outside of sexual intercourse…. sperm banks, IVF, etc.)
You see, “I’m a virgin, I’m pregnant… and Joseph is the dad” would be palatable given our modern understanding of biology and how things CAN occur. Mary would be the poster child for sex-ed. It’s the claim that GOD is the father that confounds everyone.
This claim is so amazing that many are quick to dismiss it as a legend. After all history is full of “virgin birth’s” associated with the gods right?
Maybe that is good enough for the bar stool or the comment section of a blog somewhere, but let’s adjust our language to be a bit more honest. History is full of “mythical birth legends.” In other words there are several great men throughout history (or mythical men of legend) who have been assigned some sort of deity after their death by claiming that their birth was “special” in some way. It was said of Cesar and it was said of Buddha, to name a few. But in each of those scenarios it could hardly be said that their mother was a “virgin” after conception. They would NOT be considered “virgin births.” So Christianity really does have a unique claim here.
It is very difficult to really believe in those other miraculous births because it is obvious that they are myths. Many were written hundreds of years after the birth they are supposed to be recording. Or they were living in a society that almost always ascribed godhood to its king or emperor.
Since most ancient religious history is like this, I see how it would be easy to think the books of the bible and Christianity are the same way, but look into it again. Specifically, Luke wrote his account based on eye witness testimony to verify the information that was going around about Jesus (Luke 1:1-4). He interviewed first person resources like Mary (Luke 2:19). You see the New Testament has an extraordinary track record for being written very close to the events that it describes.
We also have to take into account the witness of early church fathers who were just one generation removed from the events of the New Testament, who hold to the virgin birth as right doctrine. These are second hand sources that are closer to the time of the birth than many other sources for many other miraculous births. Many of the Early Church Fathers also had an established “chain of custody” so to speak, of which apostle/ brother of Jesus, etc. shared this information.
It’s not like the virgin birth of Jesus just popped up out of the blue either. There is plenty of groundwork for it in the Old Testament. Indeed the very first book of the Old Testament God speaks right after the Fall (Genesis 3:15) and we see a picture of where the “seed” of a woman (this was generally thought of as the man’s contribution) will crush the head of the serpent (representing Satan). Jeremiah 31:22 also indicated to many Rabbi’s that the messiah’s birth would be miraculous in nature. The gospel of Matthew also points out Isaiah 7:14 that explicitly uses a Hebrew word for “virgin” (a term that has always been translated virgin by biblical scholars until more recently by liberal scholars).
The virgin birth of Jesus is just not easily dismissed for those who are willing to look into it. As compelling as the evidence is though it’s just the beginning. There is a lot more to the story and it is worth investigating.
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